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SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT ON NATIONAL RADIO

 

This is a transcript of an opinion piece from National Radio New Zealand.
I don’t think it could be made clearer?
But unfortunately Geoff is wrong about electricity.
As our power grid is very dependent on imported oil and infrastructure, thus it also is tied to peak oil. :-(
This goes for windmills as well, including nuclear generation and coal mining, which are all very dependent on oil.
But the last paragraph should make you think?
This article has been sent to all New Zealand politicians, however getting them to read it might be another story.
But then again what's another doomed civilisation mean to a vast and seemingly uncaring Universe?

Robert Atack


 

“Sunday supplement”
10.46am Sunday 1 February 2004
www.radionz.co.nz

 

Geoff kearsley (social sciences dean, Otago university geoff.kearsley@stonebow.otago.ac.nz After a long hot summer holiday it is hard to remember that barely six months ago there was great concern that we might be entering another energy crisis. Indeed, we were. Not the hydro-generation shortfall that was anticipated but the larger crisis that we continue to enter based on the fact that global oil production is peaking either this year or very soon.

Every year now the world burns four times as much oil as it finds and the easy finds have all gone along with the easily accessible reserves. Long before oil runs out, as inevitably it will, this country must face the problem of how to afford an ever more expensive product and how, more importantly, to secure supplies at any price as the world competes for an ever scarcer and more costly resource. Worse yet, as the supplies begin to wind-down, newly industrialising countries such as china and India will add to an already unsustainable global demand.

New Zealand relies heavily on two fuel dependent industries, farming and tourism. Modern agriculture is energy hungry. Our agricultural products rely on cheap international transport over long distances. as transport costs rise, even the most efficient remote producers lose out to local supply. In the same way, the tourism industry only really took off when cheap air transport using wide-bodied jets emerged in the 1970s. There is no known alternative form of transport that is as fast or as cheap as the jet aircraft. When overall household costs rise as the price of fuel rises, holidays becoming much more expensive would be among the first to go for all but the fairly rich.

Within this country, there are certainly alternative sources of energy — wind, biomass and solar collection are all options. We have substantial hydro capacity and extensive coal reserves although there are attendant global warming and pollution problems, even with modern technology. It is unlikely that the country would run out of electricity, especially with sensible conservation measures. Even the unthinkable nuclear generation is an option, again, at some cost. We would not go cold and essential power could be maintained, albeit at a price. In this regard, life would not change. Personal transportation is where things will inevitably become dramatically different. It would be possible to create a network of electric railways between the main centres. Electric trams and trolley buses could operate in the cities. There’s no doubt that fuel cell technology will permit some motor vehicle travel but at a much greater cost. In the same way, hydrogen fuel can be developed but substantial amounts of electricity are needed for its production.

Biomass requires a vast area of agricultural land and so it goes on. Of course there are alternatives but they will all cost a great deal more and none seem able easily to meet existing demand. Our cities are built for the car. Suburbs are at too lower-density for effective public transport. Lifestyle blocks and the growth of seaside commuter settlements, the whole phenomenon of de-urbanisation would only be sustainable at an impractical cost.

Today the country is debating big issues — genetic engineering, global warming and the status of the foreshore among them — but this is the biggest of them all. Oil scarcity has the capacity to devastate our economy, physically isolate us in ways not seen since before the Second World War and to transform our daily lives.

Strangely, while there is debate of sorts it is uncoordinated, usually low key and understated. Even energy policy is discussed in terms of power rather than fuel. If this is the year in which oil starts to become scarce surely it is already past the time when this should be our primary, national concern.

Presenter: professor Geoff Kearsley there.

 

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